Friday, August 8, 2008

Creative Thinking

How the heck did he/she come up with that?

That’s what goes through my mind when I peruse woodworking books that feature original designs. That...and maybe I should turn in my woodworking badge.

A friend who took a furniture design class was taught to brainstorm by sketching ideas and then constructing small-scale models with foam core, hot glue, paper, cardboard, and wood. The instructor pointed him towards nature for inspiration. Flip the piece upside down, he suggested, consider the negative space, the angles, the lines. Look at it from all angles. How does your eye follow the design? Why do you like a particular design or feature? Does a piece have to be square and level? Must a table have 4 legs, 3 legs?

My friend was taught to think outside the box.

In Robin Landa’s book Thinking Creatively (a graphic design book), she lists design principles pertaining to the relationship among elements that, I believe, parallel woodworking: balance, unity, hierarchy, rhythm, and contrast. I’ll add scale, proportion, and pattern.

As woodworkers, we have at our disposal loads of inspiring books that showcase styles from period to ultra-modern. But I think we can also find inspiration from other disciplines including sculpture, painting, fashion, and architecture.

I’m horrible at coming up with original woodworking designs and I’d like to find more exercises for unlocking creativity. One thought is to take a sketchbook along with you. Anything that catches your eye—a doorway, the curve of a leaf, a bridge’s framework, a feather boa—jot it down. I suggest sketchbook rather than camera because you’re immediately forced to make your own interpretation.

That’s the only excercise I’ve come up with. If anyone else would like to offer procedures or books that help with thinking outside the box, chime right in!

Photos are from 400 Wood Boxes: The Fine Art of Containment & Concealment.
Photo 1: Brian McLachlan
Photo 2: Ray Jones
Photo 3: Terry Evans